A Slow Start, But a Good Finish

Yesterday Kevin and Rachel celebrated their 25th anniversary. It was a special opportunity to be with them and the grandchildren. I only wish Kate could have understood and been able to enjoy it. She got off to a rocky start. It was one of those few days that she didn’t know who I was when went in to wake her. I told her we were going to have lunch with Kevin. Knowing she can’t remember who he is, I was careful to tell her that he is our son. I don’t believe that fully registered with her. As she sat on the side of the bed before standing up, she gave me a puzzled look and said, “Who are you?” I told her, but she still looked confused.

She asked me what she was supposed to “do now.” I told her it was time for a shower and walked her into bathroom. She showered and dressed more quickly than usual. I sent a text to Kevin letting him know she was up. His family was as well, and they came over for a short visit at the house before we all went to lunch.

Kate was not in a good mood when she woke up and wasn’t interested in being with company. That and the fact that she had had trouble the day before led me to take the lead in our conversation. TCU is very important to her. I drew attention to the number of us who had graduated from TCU or were current students. Of the remaining two grandchildren, our granddaughter will be a freshman in the fall. I also mentioned that it was a special day, Kevin and Rachel’s 25th anniversary. My efforts fell flat. Kate was not ready to engage in conversation. I believe it was a combination of her mood as well as some insecurity. We had lunch together at a nearby deli. Kate was mostly quiet. I felt she was uncomfortable. After lunch, Kate and I came back to the house while Kevin’s family did some sightseeing.

We were home about forty minutes before we left for Kate’s dental appointment. She frowned when I told her where we were going. I was surprised. She has always liked her dentist. She was quiet all the way. We waited a few minutes in the lobby before the hygienist came to take her to the back for her cleaning. Even though Kate has known her for years, she didn’t display any emotion of recognition or pleasure at seeing her.

In a little while, the hygienist returned to speak to me. She said Kate resisted the X-Ray procedure. When she got to the polishing part, Kate seemed frightened. The hygienist didn’t go any further. I explained that she had not been in a good mood since getting up. Ironically, I had been considering taking her back for a cleaning every month or two. That doesn’t seem like a good thing. Besides that, she said Kate seemed to be doing a good job brushing. I told her I was a little surprised but that she brushes her teeth a lot during the day as well as when she gets up at night. She left and brought Kate back to the reception area where I took care of the bill.

As we drove away from the dentist’s office, she said, “Are you hungry?” By this time it was less than three hours since we had eaten lunch, but it is not uncommon for her to think she is hungry even sooner than that after a meal. I understand from what I have learned from others that this is quite common for people with dementia (PWD). I told her I wasn’t hungry, but I thought it was a good time for a treat and mentioned going to Marble Slab. She liked the idea.

After tasting the first bite, she raved about how good it was. I agreed. She continued to express her pleasure until she had finished. She was a changed person. All signs of moodiness had vanished in an instant. She talked about having another serving, and I felt the same way but didn’t give in. I knew that we would soon be having a big dinner.

Coincidentally, I had read a relevant section of Dementia With Dignity by Judy Cornish earlier that morning. It is a companion piece to her Dementia Handbook in which she outlines the importance of focusing on the intuitive abilities of people with dementia (PWD). Her latest book gives more details on how to apply her theoretical framework presented in her earlier work.

The part I read emphasizes the importance of managing the moods of those with dementia. She notes that PWD regularly fail at tasks and conversation and are unable to “understand where they are, why they are there, and who they are with.”  She goes on to say that these experiences often lead to negative feelings. Her point is that caregivers can play a major role in redirecting their moods. I hadn’t been successful with that when we were with Kevin’s family earlier in the day, but taking her out for ice cream did the trick.

That was good preparation for dinner. We came back to the house where she wanted to rest. Not long after that, Kevin sent a text asking if we were home. He and the children came over for an hour or so. We played Mille Bornes while Kate continued to rest. They left around 5:00 to get ready for our 6:00 dinner.

The dinner went very well even though it was a challenge for Kate to keep up with the conversation. She had to ask us to repeat ourselves a number of times. After I offered a toast to Kevin and Rachel, she leaned over to me and whispered, “Whose anniversary is it?” Despite these things, I was encouraged she was trying to understand and didn’t appear to be withdrawn.

So the day ended on a high note. I am glad about that but also disappointed that Kate was unable to fully enjoy what was a very special visit with Kevin’s family.

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